This is my summary of what Moreno means by the social atom. In psychotherapy that “atom” or pattern is the client. When two of these “patterns” connect in love, then a lifelong process is possible. One possibility is to move from blind love to deep mature connection. The other possibility is hell.
I want to get this book.
Thought it might be fun to offer the protagonists in The Dolls House couple therapy.
“We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads, and along these sympathetic fibers, our actions run as causes and return to us as results.”
The space between is invisible – we can only talk about it in metaphor e.g. “broken heart”, “bound together”, “muddy path” and here as “sympathetic fibers”. Not only do we use metaphor, we can use images and symbold – rings, hearts. And in psychodrama we have the simple act of concretisation: place people or objects at a distance to show where they are in your life. Distance becomes visible and conveys meaning.
The quote above from https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3500800.Henry_Melvill (not the Moby Dick man) seems to be saying that our actions can live after us and multiply. Then come back as karma. And then impact everyone. Be careful what you say and do it can reverberate into the future.
I think of this as Moreno’s sociometric matrix. Sympathetic is a nice word there with its roots in symphony – all the parts of the network working together.
The network of course is a physical metaphor for something unseen, the space.
Lenin used the concept often
All humanity is thrown into a tangled bloody heap from which no nation can extricate itself on its own. Though there are more and less advanced countries, this war has bound them all together by so many threads that escape from this tangle for any single country acting on its own is inconceivable.
Kenneth J. Gergen 1985
Question: Do they really think there is no individual?
I thought it was radical to say that the relationship has the individuals rather than individuals have a relationship. That still means there are individuals.
Must read it.
I recall a social work teacher I had saying the main purpose of the training was to develop the professional identity of a social worker. I liked that idea. Especially once I saw that as a social worker I embraced a set of values, a body of literature and a community of practice. We valued a social systemic rather than individual approach, this meant seeing the world in quite a different way to, say doctors whose only systems were the human biological ones, who could make individual diagnosis but not social ones. Even better it distinguished us from psychologists, who adapted the medical model to the psyche, enviously creating a system of diagnosis based on the medical one.
Maybe it was a good thing at the time. There were variations on the theme, there were Christian social workers who I did not identify with and radical social workers who I did identify with. This blurred the edge between personal and professional identities. My family was not strong on identity. Atheist/Agnostic Dutch/Australian, humanist left rather than right. I must have craved a more defined identity as my first forage into this realm was to be able to say ‘I am a bushwalker”. In Sydney at the time, for me it had an almost religious existential meaning. Value words included intrepid, nature, hard, travelling light. It distinguished us from mere tourists, and I’m sure there are still people around who are part of that circle, and have let it define them to some degree. Now, 56 years later I retain some of these values. I trained first as a teacher but did no embraced the identity. Bushwalker softly morphed to mountaineer – but I saw it as an extension of my BW ID. Traveller was another extension I aimed to embrace, Peter Pinney style (See my blog post) but I was too much of a settler.
Philosopher, hippie, marxist were all on the journey. Now I’m writing a paper: “Being a Psychodramatist.” I don’t think I’ve landed in a fixed place. Identifying with groups and activities is one thing, belonging to a community is another, being conversant with a philosophy of life… All ok and maybe steps in the developmental pathway. As a trainer in psychodrama I want trainees to become psychodramatists, not just learn some techniques. To that end it is good to hold fast to a tradition and to embrace it. Not to cling to it, not to hide behind it. And the value in this particular tradition is that it is aware that the tradition is a conserve and that from a conserve we warm up to spontaneity and creativity. That is – from the old to the new.
Lynette Clayton wrote about the personality emerging from the roles we enact. Maybe it is also right to say that it emerges from the identities we embrace. Hmmm maybe the identities are things we discover in our selves, and then embrace. Over identification with a philosophy or group is a form of narrow mindedness, yet to be forever eclectic and skeptical is just confusing.
We need to develop an ego, personality, self, identity – all words, all useful especially in their respective philosophies. And there are stages of life for each.
In Erikson’s scheme
“The teenager must achieve identity in occupation, gender roles, politics, and, in some cultures, religion.”
Thankfully he adds somewhere that this phase can go on for many years. And it is also clear that in his scheme there are many identities, professional being just one of them.
I think I developed a stable professional identity, did not get there till well into my 30s though. I see it as a cluster: psychodramatist, psychotherapist, counsellor, philosopher. Within that identity there is a lot of scope as well:
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
Trump is not a crazy narcissist. He is the product of a tradition of thought and practice. It may have started with Aristotle or Auguste Comte. Wonderful philosophers, they transcended superstition in favour of rational thought, but they carried a dark seed: they saw the world as a machine as something we could understand, and manipulate. The machine is also divine when weird mysticism can make more money.
What is this school of thought? I’m calling it Goal Centred Positivism. GCP. The Learning Annex is a significant promoter of the philosophy and the evangelists. Strains of this mode of thinking are everywhere. It needs to be identified and addressed in many professions and many world views.
What is bad about GCP? To name this is harder than it looks. While it has instant appeal in its simplicity and commonsense, it is a lie. Not everything is as it looks on the surface. There are limits to thinking positively. Like in The Apprentice — Trumps (fake) reality TV show there is always one “winner” and many who loose, who are fired, who are losers. Life is not a game. Respect for the roots, i.e. being radical, going deeper, seeing the whole picture, beyond the simplistic goals.
GCP is very American, Napoleon Hill was an advisor to two presidents of the United States of America, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
The rise of Trump (may he soon fall) has revealed deep social, political and financial schisms and fault lines. It has also revealed this schism in world views prevalent in therapy and personal growth.
I’m writing this here in my blog that is also about personal development and psychology. This goal centred positivism has brushed many schools of more reputable psychology. It is probably present in some way in most. The most blatant example is Behaviour Modification. It is central the frame works set by insurance companies who fund counselling and therapy. It is so important to distinguish life giving schools of thought from this dark flow. What is the antithesis of goal centred positivism? Approaches that have one of the following ideas at their centre:
Trump represents the power of a pernicious world view, it is important to understand the tradition and oppose it. Opposition does not come easily to the liberal, meaning centred approaches to change. Lets clearly distinguish true personal development from the crass version.
Alaine De Botton on anger:
Not sure if this really Seneca’s take on Anger. It interesting though. The essential take on anger is that it is the result of holding unrealistic expectations and that more pessimism will help calm you down.
Anger is a philosophical problem with a philosophical solution. Perhaps a bit like CBT?
My philosophical response is that it is not sufficient. Unrealistic expectations can equally lead to sadness and then it is usually framed as disappointment. However there is something to this philosophical take. Our thoughts not the other persons behaviour are at the root of anger.
A fuller take on this idea from Marshall Rosenberg:
In short: Anger is the way we get a signal that there is an unmet need. I think he uses the example of the “check engine light”.
I’m aware of another form of anger that is not really either of the above. Anger at injustice. this is from wikipedia: “Socialism is the flame of anger against injustice.” I think of this being tied in with our fight response, adrenalin rushing to survive against onslaught. This not just in the eye of the beholder as some might say. Inequality, sexism, racism, exploitation and oppression really do exist. There is a good fight. Anger at violation of human rights surely is a good thing.
There are a couple of traps here though. Take this site:
Question: “How can I know for sure that my anger is righteous indignation?”
Answer: We can know for sure that our anger or indignation is righteous when it is directed toward what angers God Himself. Righteous anger and indignation are justly expressed when we are confronted with sin. Good examples would be anger toward child abuse, pornography, racism, homosexual activity, abortion, and the like.
Makes sense if you think God is against gay rights and women’s right to choose. But it does not make sense in the real world. Investigation is the key to knowing waht is real.
Anger and Psychotherapy
I’ve heard this a lot in my profession:
“Anger is a socially suppressed emotion and people – especially women – need a safe place to get in touch with their anger. Expression of anger leads to discovering the emotions under the anger, being assertive and getting needs met. Anger is not the same as violence.”
The trouble with this is that it does not work like that if the person comes home and thinks it is a good idea to be angry with their partner. In some way anger can easily lead to violence verbal, emotional and physical. Marshall Rosenberg’s principle that other people are not the cause of our anger needs to be taken into the picture more fully than it often is.
It is easy for a therapist to side with the person in front of them. To see their side of the story. Much harder to concretise the “other” in the room with the other perspective.
In psychotherapy with couples the question about the nature of anger is important. It is held by many couple therapists that people who choose to be together in an intimate relationship are in a “horizontal relationship”. The tenet is that as therapists we should not take sides, but be a catalyst to the healing potential in the relationship. From an Imago website:
Romantic love is the door to a committed relationship and/or marriage and is nature’s way of connecting us with the perfect partner for our eventual healing.
In my work with couples I can hold that trust that the couples are equally wounded and that the power struggle can be nasty and that they have equal responsibility to get out of it. Each partner can take full responsibility for the relationship.
Talk so the other will listen.
Listen so the other will talk.
Even when there seems to be abuse of power, it usually does not take long to get to the fear, hurt, powerlessness and vulnerability under the surface. All problems in the relationship are co-created. i.e. the way one partner talks leads to the way the other listens – learn to talk without blaming shaming and criticism. Learn to listen so the other will talk. Even social inequalities can be addressed with this principle. I’m amazed how far I can take that principle in my work with couples. I’m amazed because I don’t think society is an even playing field.
Look at the list here “160+ Examples of Male Privilege in All Areas of Life”. This social inequality seeps deeply onto marriage and committed relationships.
Michael White years ago drew my attention to a Gregory Bateson idea: there are “restraints of feedback and restraints of redundancy” The feed back ones are created on the level playing field.
The other restraint is due to the social values that are the ruin of a relationship.
William Doherty is very good at seeing and responding to the social forces that mess up relationships. His book Take Back Your Marriage, Second Edition: Sticking Together in a World That Pulls Us Apart is excellent. All about the restraints of redundancy to use Bateson’s impossible jargon.
In the psychotherapy Networker he advocates:
The biggest problem in couples therapy, beyond the raw incompetence that sadly abounds, is the myth of therapist neutrality, which keeps us from talking about our values with one another and our clients. If you think you’re neutral, you can’t frame clinical decisions in moral terms, let alone make your values known to your clients. That’s partly why stepfamilies and fragile couples get such bad treatment from even good therapists. Stepfamily life is like a morality play with conflicting claims for justice, loyalty, and preferential treatment. You can’t work with remarried couples without a moral compass. Fragile couples are caught in a moral crucible, trying to discern whether their personal suffering is enough to cancel their lifetime commitment, and whether their dreams for a better life outweigh their children’s needs for a stable family. The therapist’s moral values are writ large on these clinical landscapes, but we can’t talk about them without violating the neutrality taboo. And for clients, there’s the scary fact that what therapists can’t talk about may be decisive in the process and outcome of their therapy.
I think this is tricky terrain. I think it best to focus on the co-creation of the relationship rather than the unequal society it is born from. That is a value I have because there is a lot a couple can do to address these issues in their relationship IF they can connect.
Still I am pleased to have the “permission” to have values, to weave them in in such a way that I am not seen as taking sides, because I am not.
This relational paradigm changes everything.
This post follows an earlier one: Psychological Eclecticism and Nothing And that posts is part of a series on a theme – that the psyche is a form of surplus reality created by language. This relates to the relationship between modalities, each one a shining a light on something ephemeral, the psyche.
However I’ve evolved my thinking. The language must be co created and that act transforms the relationship.
Naming roles has a measure of objectiviy when there is a consensus, but to reach that consensus means we really need to understand each other.
No role naming without role reversal.
I must tell the story of the High Priestess of Abundance.
“a role is the functioning form the individual assumes in the specific moment he reacts to a specific situation in which other persons or objects are involved” (Moreno, 1977, p IV)
Lets take a list of roles, these are from Max Clayton’s article (Clayton, 1994), it is a convenient list, and it is the one that got me to think about this:
Frightened, abandoned orphan
Anxious and suspicious fantasiser
For each of these there is as Moreno puts it: “a specific situation in which other persons or objects are involved.” We can grasp the role it is possibly in relation to from the role.
Frightened, abandoned orphan
Anxious and suspicious fantasiser
Art Materials or Audience
Wilderness, the unknown, adventurer
Compliant Follower, Sucker, victim
The Void, Black dog, Stubborn controller
Absent Parent, Threatening bully
Challenging person or situation
Creating Change in a Role Relationship
These role pairs will change as one of the roles changes:
The teacher can’t teach without the student
Lovers need lovers
If the manipulatee ceases to be duped and becomes assertive the manipulator can’t manipulate.
If there is no speaker, become a good listener.
If there is no artist, become an appreciative audience and contribute materials
Be loving and love may come your way.
Stop criticising, appreciate and praise and you won’t be with a self-doubter for long.
There are different types of role relationship. Max talks of complementary roles and symmetrical roles.
“The diagrams made it easier to be aware of the complementary and symmetrical role systems that developed with other people and of the fact that there was an increase in complementary role relationships. As ability to analyse, plan and enjoy life came to the fore, so those roles pertaining to intimacy increased. There was a welcoming of closeness and an interest in complementing what others were doing. The aggressive approach to others diminished and along with this a lessening of symmetrical role relations and of the competitive dynamic that is associated with these. There was also a development of a real sense of being a role creator. Previously there had been much more of a sense of being a mundane person. A look at the diagrams also confirmed the ability to create forms of expression through which life purposes could be fulfilled. The experience of being a role creator was accompanied by an increase in motivation.”
An example of complementary role might be speaker / listener – and this would increase intimacy, as max suggests.
Symmetrical roles can escalate and be competitive e.g. Talker / talker can become shouter / shouter.
But some symmetrical roles can be intimate lover/lover gardener/gardener
Google search found the book online Note: I have a physical copy.
Clayton, G. M. (1994). Role Theory and its Application in Clinical Practice. In P. Holmes, K. Karp, & M. Watson (Eds.), Psychodrama Since Moreno (pp. 121–144). London: Routledge. Retrieved Tuesday, 9 February, 2016 from aanzpa.org
Moreno, J. L. (1977). Psychodrama Volume One (Fourth ed.). Beacon, New York: Beacon House.
Facilitating interaction was the dictum I used for the first couple therapy I did. I recall, as an untrained social worker in a hospital being asked to work with a couple who had difficulties. The night before I read a gestalt based book on couple therapy and facilitate interaction was the central practical guide I took away. I could have done worse.
I have written on dialogue and encounter in the AANZPA Journal more recently: The Imago Affair. Let me quote a relevant chunck from that paper as I wish to further reflect on encounter.
At their heart, both Moreno’s and Hendrix’s work go beyond technique and are an invitation to a profound experience. The aim of a dialogue is not a specific outcome, nor is it reliant on one method. Here is the section of Moreno’s well known poem that encapsulates the idea of encounter.
A meeting of two: eye to eye, face to face.
And when you are near I will tear your eyes out
and place them instead of mine,
and you will tear my eyes out
and will place them instead of yours,
then I will look at you with your eyes
and you will look at me with mine.
Harville Hendrix introduced the validation step into the Imago structure with an eye to facilitating just such an experience. It is often taught as understanding or making sense. The lead-in line goes like this: “You make sense. And one thing that makes sense is…” The listener is invited to cross a bridge into the world of the other, and to see what they see, and feel what they feel in that world. Note the similarity to Moreno in Hendrix’s idea.
Buber clarified for me that a “Thou” relationship with others required honouring their “otherness” as an “I” distinct from me and any concepts I might have of them. This required a willingness to look at the world of another through his or her eyes.
Linger on the moments of connection described here:
I will look at you with your eyes (Moreno)
look at the world of another through his or her eyes (Hendrix)
Are they the same?
Both Imago and in the work of Moreno there is the idea of a special meeting. Not just any meeting, but something profound, where you become the other…
How to facilitate, or operationalise encounter is different in the psychodramatic sphere than in the I Imago sphere. They use different contexts for their techniques as well, psychodrama: the stage. Imago: the couple in dialogue and Hedy Schleifer has a variation: Host / Visitor to the other’s world.
There are techniques/concepts in these modalities that are sometimes akin, but differently nuanced, and sometimes unique to the method. There are other modalities and have techniques for interaction, of importance is the variation of Imago developed by Hedy Schleifer and her husband, and the work of Dan Wile.
My friend and colleague Dan Randow and I are working on describing the varieties of techniques for encounter. Here is a beginning.
Here is a list of techniques/concepts:
Doubling: in Psychodrama
Mirroring — Psychodrama
Role reversal — Psychodrama
Doubling in Imago: Related to the use of lead-lines
Doubling in Dan Wile’s CRT
Mirroring in Imago
Empathy as used in Imago
Host, Visitor (Hedy Schleifer)
How does role reversal relate to encounter? In role reversal and in doubling you become the other to the best of your ability. You take the physical position of the other, quite literally in role reversal and by being alongside and slightly behind the other when doubling.
Is it useful to distinguish the inter-psyche from the intra-psyche; what goes on in our subjective world and what goes on between us? Maybe sometimes, all these encounter processes aim at improving the relationship and healing and growth of the individuals at the same time.